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Exploring War Through Dance: Jon Beney discusses his Freedom Festival commission

The Way We Were was a dance piece commissioned for Freedom Festival 2016 by Freedom Festival Arts Trust and in association with Hull Dance, created and performed by local Dance Artists, Jon Beney and Freddie Garland.

We caught up with Jon to chat about how he explored the impact of war through dance.

  • Tell us about the show that you created for the dance commission.

“The Way We Were is a piece that looks at the impact on those before during and after World War 2. Three simple scenes try to capture the energy emotion and importance of why we need to remember the impact of not just WW2 but all wars. Our opening sequence, in collaboration with Kingston Swing, recreates a 1940’s dance hall filled with the energy and joy of dancing freely. Two lovers meet only to be separated by the announcement of war, which leads into a final scene with ex-service men and women social dancing whilst reflecting on past events and remembering those who returned and those who didn’t.”

  • What interested you most about creating a show for outdoors rather than traditional indoor spaces?

“I love creating and performing in the outdoors because the audience reaction is so different, mainly because people might just stumble upon it or it might be the first time some audience members have ever seen work in a space like this.”

  • What did you enjoy most about this opportunity and creating the new piece of work?

“Firstly that it was in my home city Hull and secondly was the collaboration with both Kingston Swing and Armstrong Social Club – meeting and working with such open inspiring dancers was amazing and I enjoyed going out with them all and winning the bingo!”

  • Have you performed at/been involved in/visited Freedom Festival before? What are your memories of the festival? Any particular highlights?

“I have been involved with Freedom Festival before. I have created work for other dancers performing at the festival but this was my first time performing myself. I think I have been every year as an audience member, I love it! I have to say this year is my highlight so far as it brought such a mix of dancers of all ages together to perform an original piece on a brand new fantastic space (Stage@thedock). It was just amazing! Oh and Ilbibio Sound Machine – I love that band.”

  • What does ‘freedom’ mean to you?

“Freedom to me means living without fear. I have been fortunate to travel a lot of the world teaching, dancing, choreographing and just seeing people live their lives and I think when you can live without the fear of been persecuted or the fear of being denied the simplest of human rights I think that is freedom. Unfortunately, I don’t think the world will ever know this, but we have to keep trying eh?!”

  • Which other artists/shows did you see at this year’s festival?

“Of course, I saw Ibibio Sound Machine, Company Chameleon, Non Applicables and Wired Aerial. I tried to see as much as I could and had a lot of friends performing this year so it was really great to catch up with them and to hear them say such positive things about Hull and Freedom Festival.”

You can see more of what Jon is up to with Tenfoot Dance Company here: https://tenfootdancecompany.com/

If you haven’t seen The Way We Were yet, follow them on Twitter and keep up to date with latest shows: https://twitter.com/TheWayWeWereull

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